The Week

The Week, 11 August 2017

Tony Blair’s interview on the “inadequate” Whitehall support for his reform programme is a must-listen (especially from 28 minutes onwards). His Economist valedictory article from 2007 is worth going back to, including the conclusion: “Public-sector unions can’t be allowed to determine the shape of public services.”

Andrew Haldenby, Director

Reformer of the week

Tony Blair, who emphasised the need for determined political leadership to overcome bureaucratic inertia on reform (see Quotes of the Week below).

Reactionaries of the week

Jon Ashworth, who opposed changes to the NHS property estate. In fact, such changes not only are the inevitable by-product of advances in medical practice but also will help make those advances possible.

Some Sicilian firefighters who were arrested on suspicion of starting fires in order to receive extra funding. This is not the spirit of “payment by results”.

Good week for…

Squaring circles

On Sunday, Will Tanner, former deputy director of the Number 10 Policy Unit (and former colleague at Reform), argued for a State that is “agile”, “responsive” and “strategic” but not “small” or “less interfering”.


On Monday, it was reported that GCHQ is working with small private sector companies to improve its work on cyber-security.

The idea of productivity in the NHS

On Wednesday, two senior economists showed that the NHS is not under-funded compared to other European countries. Its undoubted problems therefore lie in its organisation and its very slow progress towards change.

Bad week for…


On Monday, a report found that HMRC carries out 99 per cent of its most common transactions digitally.

NHS waste

On Monday, an analysis by the University of Manchester found that a programme to help NHS patients stick to medicine regimes will save £500 million in the long term.

Jon Ashworth

On Wednesday, three private firms proposed ideas that would enable them to refurbish the general practice estate in England.

Quotes of the week

“The latest data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) for the UK and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) for other countries, suggest that previous figures have underestimated how much the UK spends on health compared with other countries.”

John Appleby and Ben Gerschlick, writing in the BMJ

“What I learnt about bureaucracy is that it is great about managing things but not great at changing things … when it came to, how do you do health service reform, or education reform, or I remember in the early battles I had reforming asylum and immigration policy, I found it frankly unresponsive … I say this to you as I say to governments around the world: you should always treat the bureaucracy with respect, you should recognise what it can do, but if you become a prisoner of it, believe me you will achieve nothing, you’ll just go round in circles. It’s a longer debate to have because reinventing government has fallen off the agenda in recent times and it really shouldn’t because today, especially with changes in technology, this whole concept of how government itself works is, in my view, fundamentally important.”

Tony Blair, interviewed by Peter Hennessy on Thursday

Reform’s Week


On Monday, Andrew Haldenby, Director of Reform, argued that while “May-ism” argues rightly for economic and social change, its actual policies stand for the status quo.

On Tuesday, Olivia Sundberg-Diez, Corporate Partners and Fundraising Officer at Reform, looked at digital lamp posts and how they could support the UK’s public safety needs.

On Thursday, Alexander Hitchcock, Senior Researcher at Reform, argued that Government transformation funds are sustaining, rather than improving, public services in the NHS and police service.